49 Grand St., Albany
A year-after-year choice that pleases us with its ineffable rightness. Along with its northern sibling, Capriccio Saratoga, we marvel at the culinary skill of chef Franco Rua as he continues the northern Italian tradition of his father, founder and factotum Jim, who maintains an inspiring presence.
Best New Restaurant
1645 Western Ave., Albany
A deli? Oh, yes. Because the pastrami sandwich can’t be beat. Because chopped liver. Sliced tongue. Matzoh ball soup. All served in a repurposed chain-restaurant building, which is efficient and kind, like the servers.
The Desmond, 660 Albany-Shaker Rd., Colonie
Executive chef Michael St. John has long helmed this elegant eatery, resisting the faddish in order to serve classics like oysters Rockefeller and Chateaubriand, reimagined classics like salmon Wellington, and classic gestures like a tableside-tossed Caesar salad.
Star Plaza, 2050 Western Ave., Guilderland
Chef-owner Joseph Soliman proved his talent for Middle Eastern cookery at the Hidden Café, but evolved that menu into what he now offers at Sage Bistro: an inspiring take on food that knows no geographical boundaries. Try his chicken with smoked Gouda, farfalle with lobster and five cheeses, and linguine with clams and chorizo. All this and gelato, too!
Best Old American
The Wishing Well
745 Saratoga Road, Wilton
Lobsters! Raw bar! A lengthy list of still more seafood as well as steaks and chops and a good old-fashioned turkey dinner, served in an elegant dining room with live music. If it seems like a step back in time, it’s because they’ve been doing it for 77 years.
Best New American
New World Bistro Bar
300 Delaware Ave., Albany
He seems almost outta control, that crazy chef Ric Orlando, whose food is often deliriously hot, always deliriously flavorful, and always with good reason. He makes a rice pasta with arugula sauce that captures compelling Italian wisdom, Korean-style poke belly—in other words, all-American stuff.
The Bear’s Steakhouse
8254 Duanesburg Rd. (Route 7), Duanesburg
With the passing of founding chef Bob Payne, the family—his wife and two sons—continue to maintain the ridiculously high standards of this mecca for steak lovers. With the efflorescence of industrial steakhouses, it’s vital to regularly revisit the mother ship, but call ahead for that reservation.
Latham Farms, 579 Troy-Schenectady Rd., Latham
Chef Dominique Brialy hails from France; foudning partner Claire Pogue comes from Quebec. They’ve got the needed Gallicness covered, and have transformed a strip-mall space into a Brittany retreat, with coq au vin and steak tartare among the offerings.
Best Gourmet Italian
818 Central Ave., Albany
Armand Lule’s Grappa ’72 is a repeat winner in this category, again, for everything from the pleasant and tasteful surroundings to the attentive service to the inventive regional Italian cuisine. The wine list is thoughtfully chosen, and Grappa also is an excellent choice for a business lunch.
Best Family Italian
Testo’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza Parlor
853 4th Ave., Troy
A restaurant that anchors a community for 37 years and continues to grow its clientele is a rare feat these days, but Testo’s endures as they continue to improve the menu. Try the amazing meatballs, fresh haddock or scallop dinner, and don’t forget that it’s all available for takeout or dellivery.
Best Japanese Steakhouse
260 Wolf Road, Colonie
The prices are a little lower, the dining room remains attractive as ever, and you still get that spatula-flipping, shrimp-flinging show at the teppanyake tables. But don’t overlook the rest of the menu, particularly the multi-course bento box specials.
1558 Central Ave., Albany
A very specialized menu characterizes this cousin (same owner) to Albany’s My Linh restaurant. The specialty is pho, a Vietnamese soup that allows many possibilities of enhancement, as well as wonderfully textured spring rolls, vermicelli dishes and tasty banh mi sandwiches.
997 Central Ave., Albany
An unlikely seeming strip-mall location conceals an unassuming, eager-to-please place for sweet Thai curries, pungent soups (our perennial favorite is khao soi, prepared here in an egg-drop version), and the variety of noodle dishes that characterizes this lively and inventive cuisine.
Best Asian Buffet
1893 Central Ave., Albany
Where this one trumps its cousin, Latham’s Sushi X, is in the addition of hibachi fare in the all-you-can-eat format. Not a buffet in the strict, serve-yourself sense of the term, it provides full table service for the all-inclusive price. In other words, you’re forced to pace yourself as you pig out.
Sushi Thai Garden
44-46 Phila St., Saratoga Springs
There’s enough overlap among Asian cusines to make the kind of fusion menu offered here a comfortable place from which to explore noodle soups, a variety of curries, artfully seasoned meat and vegetables and, of course, some of the area’s best sushi and sashimi, served in an appropriately pleasant environment.
209 Central Ave., Albany
At last we have a Szechuan hot-pot spot, where you can enjoy this wonderful spicy soup with the often-exotic additions of your choosing (be sure to ask for the hot pot menu). There also are hundreds of other items to choose from, familiar and not-so, in what feels like an instant trip to Elizabeth Street.
Best Pizza (Classic)
266 4th St., Troy
Time and time again we bestow this honor on this old-school pizzeria. Time and time again, they keep adding new items to their menu and making things even better—without changing our favorites. We strongly recommend the spicy red pepper crust, but there’s even a gluten-free option for those who need it.
Best Pizza (Neapolitan)
26 Henry Street, Saratoga Springs
It’s Neapolitan pizza, and there are strict rules for it. You have to use the right flour, make the dough just so, cook in a wood-fired oven at the optimal temperature . . . but what emerges is a thin-crust pie with a sizzling topping and beautiful char. This could completely redefine your pizza-ingesting experience.
Betty Boop’s Diner
115 Philip St., Albany
The name and décor are whimsical, but the menu features chef-owner Joe Marino’s takes on classics like meatloaf, chicken parm, spaghetti and meatballs—and much in the way of breakfast and burgers, served in the former Mansion Hill Inn, now refashioned into a most welcoming neighborhood joint.
181 Freeman’s Bridge Road, Glenville
We love this place because it continues to serve hand-crafter burgers in the kind of setting that makes them taste even better, a friend-to-the-community breakfast-and-lunch restaurant where you’ll be greeted by name and reminded of what you ordered last time you were here. So go for the burger, but go back to try more of the scratch-made fare.
Best Hot Dogs
Saratoga Awesome Dogs
112 Excelsior Ave., Saratoga Springs
The secret is in the smoking, a process in evidence when you visit the red truck in the out-of-the-way parking lot. And when you’ve wolfed down a dog, wrap your gums around a kielbasa or burger, also smoked and thus whisking us back to our pre-evolutionary past.
Best Lunch (Troy)
111 Congress St., Troy
This assumes you want a lunch of a few little hot dogs and/or a burger or two, along with a portion of just-cooked fries and maybe a slab of pie to finish. But there’s a fraternity of gourmets dedicated to the enjoyment of this kind of fare in this kind of welcoming, unpretetious environment, a group you join the instant you enter.
Best Lunch (Schenectady)
Peter Pause Restaurant
535 Nott St., Schenectady
We wish it were more of a secret when we’re waiting for one of the few tables or counter seats at this Schenectady landmark, but it’s worth the struggle – or delaying your lunch. Italian specialties, homemade bread, and a hearty array of breakfast items if you decide to arrive early instead.
Best Lunch (Albany)
182 Washington Ave., Albany
How many ways to say, year after year, that this is the best tasting lunch at the best prices in downtown Albany? The good news about the long lines at peak hour is (1) local workers are in the know and (2) the service is so efficient you won’t wait all that long. The weekend brunch rocks, too.
1108 Madison Ave., Albany
A repeat winner. Only this year, we’re not going to recite the many scrumptious menu options, because we’d get too hungry and wish it were morning. This we have said before: Those weekend lines don’t form just because people are too hungover to go somewhere else.
Best Late-Night Dining
The Point Restaurant & Lounge
1100 Madison Ave., Albany
You can get pub food into the late hours at a number of area joints, but not on a level with Jennifer Hewes’ fare at the Point. We also recommend stopping in during dinner hours for the exceptional full menu, but the late-night menu of appetizers, artisan pizzas, etc., still offers excellent upscale food if you’re sopping in after a show or a late shift.
Best Restaurant/Bar Empire
Madison Avenue, Albany
Juniors, the Point, Café Madison—and now the under-renovation Mahar’s (to reopen as the Pourhouse) form an almost blocklong eatery empire under the same, obviously capable management. How far can they go? Bruegger’s, watch your back.
1300 15th St., Troy
Our area options are few, but we’ll put Muza up against any other metropolitan area’s Polish eateries any day. We were won over by the golumbki, of course, and the pierogi and the kielbasa plate. Add potato pancakes and it’s an old-country festival, but the menu has expanded over time to allow variety in what should be a series of re-visits. And did we mention the goulash?
9B Johnson Road, Latham
47 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs
Cuisine from six regions of India is featured, offering welcome alternatives to the standard-issue menu. We’re fond of the rice-and-lentil dosai, which you fill with veggies and condiments, the coconut-crusted fish, the tandoori rack of lamb. Vegan and vegetarian options abound, and there’s an excellent buffet lunch.
431 Liberty St., Schenectady
Clay-pot cookery is never better realized than in a tagine, the cone-topped serving dish in which the aromatic stews of Morocco are stovetop-simmered at this tiny, out-of-the-way restaurant. Try the chicken with preserved lemons and green olives and the appetizer of eggplant, roasted garlic and tomato. And be sure to enjoy your lunch or dinner with a glass of mint tea.
2243 15th St., Troy
A perennial winner, a great favorite, a restaurant that has won for itself a fanatical following for its unpretentious approach to such Turkish fare as doner kabob, chicken guvech, kofte iskender—and the puffy loaf of lavash, served with a garlic-yogurt sauce. And where else can you score a chicken curry pizza?
Best Middle Eastern
Garlic Lovers Corner
235 North Greenbush Rd., North Greenbush
First of all, it’s best hummus and baba ganouj we’ve found. Try the appetizer sampler and see for yourself. Then there are the salads, crafted with a journeyman sense of Middle Eastern flavors. But then you get to the entrees, which include lamb and apricot stew, hibiscus sea scallops, a Mediterranean vegetable bowl, lamb or beef kebobs—or, for the traditionalist, grilled rib-eye with gorgonzola cream.
Antipasto’s Vegetarian Bistro and Wine Bar
1028 Rt 146, Clifton Park
The menu features Italian favorites with a vegetarian twist and arguably the best pizza in the county. Delicious salads—try the warm spinach salad—and a wine list meticulously created by owner Steve Zumbo. A small independent surrounded by large chains that has all personality and quality the chains can never achieve.
315 Cenbtral Ave., Albany
Charbroiled chicken becomes pollo al carbon, a more evocative moniker, and thus does the fare here transform the familiar into the exotic, with an appropriate south-of-the-border approach. Not the most atmospheric place, but a comfortable source of quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos and more.
1113 State St., Schenectady
The chicken part of the menu gives a choice of fried, curried, stewed or jerk—or even served with waffles. And there are similar preparations of beef and goat, along with seafood items and an excellent mac and cheese. The restaurant has grown and thrived since moving into this large Schenectady location.
Best Wine Bar
Charles F. Lucas Confectionary and Wine Bar
12 Second St., Troy
Enjoy hand-selected wine by the bottle or by the glass along with an imaginative menu of small plates and a regular schedule of special tastings and other events, all taking place in a gorgeously refurbished set of buildings that maintain a sense of Troy’s history.
Best Fried Chicken
45 Phila St., Saratoga Springs
Hattie Austin started it, bringing a recipe to Saratoga from the south, and owners Jasper and Beth Alexander still offer the same wonderful chicken among items that reflect Jasper’s award-winning approach to regional American cookery. Try the new satellite location in Route 50’s Wilton Plaza.
The Pig Pit
1 Niver St., Cohoes
Texan Dave Frazier has been purveying barbecue in the Capital Region in various locations and guises since 1992, but his Cohoes eatery is the best of them because you’re not only getting ’cue the way it’s meant to be but also an imaginative array of Mexican-inspired items he has perfected over the years.
1814 Western Avenue, Albany
We like the grilled octopus with pickled vegetables, the flaming kefalograviera cheese, the zucchini fritters, the smoked eggplant dip—and that’s just for starters. Classic Greek fare in a fine-dining environment, where you’ll enjoy pastichio, moussaka, chicken saganaki, shrimp grekolimano and more.
Best Outdoor Dining
West Capitol Park Vendors
Yeah, there are amazing restaurants in Albany, but think about it, you work in the city and you could either walk or maybe drive to a restaurant for lunch, order in and eat at your sad little desk, or walk maybe a block outside of your dreary office building where multiple restaurants (with good, healthy and ethnic variety) are parked in one spot waiting for you. It’s your call, but we’ll take a midday picnic any time we can.
Best Outdoor Drinking
City Beer Hall
42 Howard St., Albany
You can quibble all you want over who has the biggest deck. Does size really matter? It’s really the motion of those bull-riding hips that matters—and plenty of space at the picnic table to have a smoke when it’s over.
Best Cheap Eats
Gus’s Hot Dogs
212 25th St., Watervliet
Nestled in the soft, small bun is the fat finger of a hot dog covered with mustard and chopped onions and homemade meat sauce. You take your first bite, and the casing is just firm enough to pause before releasing a jet of roasted meat flavor. Your second bite confirms the tastiness of the first; the third one finishes it off.
El Loco Mexican Cafe
465 Madison Ave., Albany
We know nachos. And we know that you cannot find a more perfect example of nacho art than El Loco’s Nachos Fantasticos. Every layer, and there are many, is perfectly proportioned (covered in yummy goodness). There is no bigger nacho sin than serving a nacho pile that has unmelted cheese in the middle, and that will never, ever happen at El Loco. Their nacho knowledge surpasses even our own.
Best Ice Cream Joint
1344 Spring Ave., Wynantskill
Moxie’s wins because they are awesome and delicious and have vegan ice cream and a playground. The end.
293 Hamilton St. , Albany
Hop on Yelp.com and search for Albany, no specific category, just Albany, N.Y. Depending on the day, the top spot is usually Cheesecake Machismo, the tiny little shop with an encyclopedia of a menu. Think of a flavor—they’ve probably got it. Yes, you can find the good ol’ standbys but you can also order a slice of Hot Cousin, a piece of Clown Shoes, or a whole cake of Coffee Lynn Soon. It’s up to you to pick a favorite.
197 Lark St., Albany
As the business prospers, we worried that the quality might slide. In one of the most shamelessly enjoyable research missions ever, we can report that it hasn’t. This is still your go-to place for unaccountably wonderful confections, lovingly crafted as works of art by Claudia Crisan and her crew.
1235 Western Ave., Albany
402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Coffee needs to be freshly roasted and carefully brewed, and it doesn’t hurt to have the aromatic crackle of the roaster livening the air. We’re divided between the Saratoga (laid-back, novel-writing) and Albany (extra caffeine, essay-finishing) branches, but both of them provide the many manifestations needed for your cup of joe, and they try not to sneer when you order it decaffeinated.
1235 Western Ave., Albany
402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Big, puffy life-rafts of carb, the bagels here are larger than most “probably to keep people coming back,” as one staffer ventured. They’ll rip out the bagel’s delicious interior to satisfy your neurotic needs, they’ll join you in pretending that a “schmear” doesn’t have any calories. We prefer jalapeno-enhanced cream cheese on a garlic bagel, but we tend towards the extreme. The bagels are great for sandwiches, too!
Andy’s Italian Food & Deli
256 Delaware Ave., Albany
With 12 types of salami and five different prosciutto varieties, the possibilities clearly are endless. Just to pick two of the listed subs, the Roman features salami, pepper ham, pepperoni and provolone; the house special is made with mortadella, sopressata, provolone, roasted peppers and eggplant. And, of course, you can create your own.
Best Sandwich for kids
Illium Café (Crispy Peanut Butter and Jelly Pain Petite)
9 Broadway, Troy
From the menu: “Crunchy peanut butter, hazelnut spread, marshmallow fluff, and raspberry preserves on warm ciabatta.” Don’t worry, it’s not just for kids.
319 Ontario St., Albany
If you know Bros., you know. If you don’t, it’s a far cry from Moe’s, right in Pine Hills.
Best Meal Worth a Drive
Jake Moon Restaurant and Cafe
2082 Delaware Turnpike, Clarksville
Jake Moon’s is worth the easy ride down the Delaware Turnpike. From a great breakfast to the homemade bread, lobster bakes and Sunday buskers, you will not be disappointed.
Best Pub (Brew)
Brown’s Brewing Company
417 River St., Troy
Founders Garry and Kelly Brown had the vision of Troy in 1993 that created the format of its eventual revival. And Brown’s craft brews are now a household name. With a beautiful deck that overlooks the Hudson, great food and delicious beers, Brown’s is a model for all such businesses.
Best Pub (New)
452 Broadway , Troy
A year ago last July, Megan and Sean Costello reopened and remodeled an old historic bar in Troy (Holmes and Watson). What they did to upgrade it has to be seen. It’s now a friendly neighborhood pub that is welcoming to anyone, with a courtyard patio and street patio dining also. The menu is moving in a gastropub direction, with beautifully prepared pub food and more all cooked from scratch, and 32 drafts on tap.
Best Pub (Belgian-Style)
The Merry Monk
90 North Pearl St., Albany
Creative pub menu (try the duck drummers) and outstanding beer list. But we could get all crazy just for the frites (great dipping sauces) and the many preparations of mussels, which are to die for.
Best Pub (Small-Town)
Main Street Public House
12 Main St., Philmont
This tiny pub has achieved the unlikely feat of turning Philmont into a destination for those in the know. Quality beer selection, well prepared local food, good live music and a friendly welcome. Simple really, but no one else does it better.
1 Church St., Chatham
It pays to drink Patron. Aside from that, fresh ingredients and a pleasant atmosphere round out the Chatham eatery. Make a stop after checking out one of the local swimming holes.
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